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Piloting Fury Part 2: KDG Scifi Romance

Happy Bank Holiday Monday to my readers in the UK! I hope you’re getting some sunshine and can get out to enjoy the Spring blossoms.

As I mentioned last Monday, with the completion of Mr. Sands, I would not  leave you bereft of those cheeky little Monday reads. Piloting Fury is a little different from what you’ve come to expect from KDG. I’m revisiting this serial novel for multiple reasons, but mostly because I love Fury, and I hope you do too.

Last week Rick Manning offers Diana ‘Mac’ McAllister a bet she can’t possibly lose. This week she learns the terms of the bet are not at all what she expected. Enjoy!

Catch up here if you missed last week’s episode of Piloting Fury.


Piloting Fury

“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAllister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

Piloting Fury Part 2: I Got this, Mac

“What does this mean, her ass is yours?” The notary asked, with a strong New Hibernian accent. “You know I need specifics.”

“He wants me to fuck him, if I lose,” I clarified. Me arrogant? Huh! I could already picture myself easing the powerful bulk of the Fury out of dock and seeing what the ship could do in open space.

There were three other tables demanding the attention of the notary, and the fact that such a big wager had to be witnessed wasn’t making them or him very happy. “Well I can hardly write that down, can I?”

Manning rolled his eyes and grabbed the notary’s device using the touch pad to type in whatever was a good euphemism for the thing I was certain wasn’t going to happen. I was so sure of myself, so positive that the Fury was already mine that I didn’t bother to look at what he wrote. I just placed my thumb against the DNA reader on the keypad and the notary grunted his approval, nodding to the barmaid who brought over a sealed pack of cards. Manning settled her onto his lap – for luck, he said, as he shuffled the cards, considerably longer than necessary. But then I could be patient when I would be walking away with the price of my freedom plus change and a bright shiny starship of my very own. I certainly wasn’t worried about Manning. He was a respectable pilot – not as good as I am, but not bad either, and he was one cunning sonovabitch. He’d land on his feet no matter what happened.

When he dealt me three tens, I figured I was in like Flynn. The vacuous barmaid was too busy playing with Manning’s bronze curls to give anything away. And really, while she might meet him after hours and commiserate with a good fuck, she wasn’t at all interested in the outcome. Looking back, I should have thought that strange. I should have thought the whole situation strange, that a man was about to bet his fucking starship to a woman who had a reputation for never losing. Looking back, I should have thought of a lot of things, but all I could think about was that in one glorious night, I would gain my freedom and a starship with contracts pending.

I sure as hell wasn’t thinking about Rick Manning pulling a straight flush. But that’s exactly what the bastard did. Winner takes it all.

“You cheated,” I said. But no one heard me over the squealing of the barmaid who all but bounced up and down on his lap, before nearly sticking her tongue down his throat in a congratulatory kiss. It ended in a yelp as he shoved her off, stood and offered me his hand. “Diana McAllister, I believe your ass is mine.”

The notary shoved his pad in our faces and we both offered our thumbs, which made the bet final and binding as well as transferring the details to the station archives where it would be conveniently noted and disappeared before the Authority could get wind of it. Stations this remote were not fans of the Authority, and they all played by their own rules. I said nothing. I only offered my thumb. The new Hibernians didn’t take kindly to people reneging on a notarized bet. In fact it was punishable by death at the bar owner’s discretion, in which case the winnings from the bet became the property of the bar owner. So I followed Manning out of the bar, hand in hand still trying to figure out what the hell had happened.

Even then I was consoling myself with the fact that I was no worse off than I had been before. The thought of fucking Rick Manning wasn’t entirely loathsome to me, and after all the whiskey he’d put away, I figured he’d pass out long before we got down to doing the deed. If not, there were rumors that he was good in the sack. Probably rumors he’d started, I figured. I wouldn’t put it past the bastard.



He led me down a darkened passage to a rented room above the bar. I’d expected something a little more upscale, but I was still too stunned to make any snide comments. It didn’t matter if he’d cheated, it didn’t matter that I’d lost my freedom, and a starship even before I had them. It was a done deal, so if he wanted to fuck my brains out, it had all been notarized. It was the humiliation that bothered me as much as anything. At least at that point.

He entered the code. The door slid open, and he nodded me inside. My first surprise was when he turned on the lights before motioning me to the bed. Well, maybe he liked to see what he was doing in the sack. “Lie down,” he said quietly, making no attempt to feel me up or kiss me.

I did as he said. I stripped out of the bomber jacket, but if he wanted anything else off, he’d have to do it himself. To my surprise, he didn’t come immediately to join me, but rummaged through a compact duffle bag on the floor. When he did finally come to the bed, he set a small leather case on the nightstand and pulled off his belt. I braced myself. But instead of getting down to it, he looped the belt around my forearm just above my subdural shackle and cinched it up tight enough the outline of the chip shown below the surface of my skin. “This will only hurt for a few minutes, then it’ll all be over,” he said. Before I could even begin to struggle, he laid a heavy hand on my chest. “I’d recommend you lie still. I’ve never done this before.”

“What are you doing? What the fuck are you doing?” I fought back panic.

He offered me a beatific smile. “Don’t worry, Mac. I got this.” As he brought out the laser scalpel, I all but froze.

“Fucking hell, Manning, you know what happens when a shackle’s tampered with.”

“You belong to me now, Mac,” he said, making a tiny incision that stung like fire and then two more in quick succession until the shackle was laid bare.

“What the hell are you talking about?” I held dead still hissing the words between my teeth, expecting at any minute for my arm to break out in a rash of blisters. “I belong to Captain Harker and the Dubrovnik.” Or at least I had been assigned to him for that last few years. Who I really belonged to, I never admitted unless I had no choice. Though I suspected Manning knew. He didn’t miss much.

“Not anymore you don’t.” He pulled a pair of micro-view goggles from the leather case and shoved them onto his face. Then he grabbed a couple of very delicate-looking tools I recognized from when my shackle had been recalibrated my first day onboard the Dubrovnik.

“Manning, you’ll get me infected! You’ll get me sent off to a plague planet!”

“Don’t you worry about a thing, Mac. Just hold still for me, and everything’ll be fine.”

He didn’t have to tell me twice. I didn’t move. I didn’t breathe. I all but willed my heart not to beat until at last he heaved a sigh and gently laid the skin back over the shackle. Then he covered it with a layer of Dermanew. That done, he removed the belt and admired his handy work. Then his hands started shaking, and I was afraid for a second, one or maybe both of us might throw up.

I stared at my arm, waiting for the telltale rash to break out. When it didn’t I looked up at him. “What the hell did you do?”

“You didn’t read the notary contract, did you?”

“I wasn’t planning to lose,” I said between gritted teeth.

“What I did was reprogram your shackle to Fury, to me, more specifically. You’re now indentured to me for an indeterminate time. I reckon it’ll take you longer to pay it off on the Fury than it would have on the Dubrovnik, since smaller ships have smaller incomes, but I promise you’ll have a lot more fun. Besides, I’ve been wanting to hire on a first mate for awhile now, and I really wanted a good pilot.”

“But what about the Dubrovnik. I can’t just jump ship.”

“Of course you can. Now.” He nodded down to the shackle. “I wouldn’t advise trying to jump ship on Fury though. You can sleep here tonight, and tomorrow at 0800, report to Fury.” He stood, suddenly a little unsure on his feet, and stumbled toward the door. Then he turned back and offered me a smile that faltered just a little around the edges. His face had gone pale as though he’d just realized what he’d done. “The room is locked from the inside, just to keep the riff raff away, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what will happen if you try to leave. As for the Dubrovnik, well we’ll be long gone before everyone even finishes boarding the Dubrovnik. Now get some sleep. We have a busy day ahead of us tomorrow.”

Piloting Fury Part 48: Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday, which means it’s Fury time again.  Mr Grace and I are just back from a wonderful holiday in glorious Cumbria with lots of walking and lots of relaxing in the local pubs, as well as a special treat of a few extra days with friends. Now amid the laundry and the catching up, I want to make sure your next episode of Fury is happily waiting for you right on time … thought this episode is certainly not happy as Captain Harker and the crew of the Dubrovnik make a decision from which there is no turning back. If you’re enjoying Fury, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. PS: No pics of the stars this time, but a few holiday photos from our wonderful walk to Nine Standards Rigg, a part of the Wainwright Coast to Coast path and the Pennine Way.



“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAllister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.

Piloting Fury Part 48: No Turning Back

It had been Harker’s experience that when an operation was going too smoothly, it usually meant all he had to do was wait for it, and the shit would hit the fan. This was not the time when he needed the unexpected. This was the time when he needed everything to go exactly as planned. Flissy and her two assistants had been very careful with the vaccinations to make sure Fallon’s spies were equally interspersed with the rest of the crew so not to draw any attention. Six other trusted crew members worked in the sub-basement getting Fallon’s groggy loyalists safely and quietly into the cryo-pods.

The real worry was that Lebedny was not yet among the crew reporting for vaccinations. Twice he’d delayed saying he’d come as soon as he finished what he was doing. When it happened the third time, Harker dispatched a security team to escort him down. That was half an hour ago. He was just about to com up and see what the delay was when the cargo bay door slid open and Lebedny stepped in flanked by two of the other men, both working security, who had come onboard with Fallon’s snitches. He smiled benignly enough, but there was nothing benign about the three of them together. Lebedny was a big man, muscled and fit, and the two who flanked him were bigger still. Harker had done his homework and he knew that Lebdny had come up through the ranks through Authority special forces. His job, before he had come onboard the Dubrovnik, had been organizing security details for Fallon and Fire Star Conglomerate’s more sensitive, more ‘at risk’ cargo.

“They’re the last three,” came Ivan’s voice inside Harker’s ear piece, “and I think the jig is up.”

When Harker motioned him to the bay where Flissy waited, he offered a lazy smile. “There’s no radiation leak, Harker. Did you think I wouldn’t check? I don’t know where you’re holding my people, but I suggest you release them now, and we can forget any of this ever happened.” Then he tapped the button on his chest and opened a ship-wide com. “Attention all personnel, Captain Harker is attempting to hijack an Orca class ship belonging to Star Fire conglomerate. Any members of the Dubrovnik’s crew are who are found to be aiding Harker or his co-conspirators will be punished to the full extent of Authority law.”

Harker had just stepped out of the sub basement after checking the cryo-pods, all but three of those prepped were full. He gave his earpiece two quick taps, the signal between him and Ivan and Flissy as well as several other key players, that there was trouble. Then he spoke quietly to the crew assisting with the pods, who were securing the last three patients. “Finish up and get out of there.” Keeping one eye on Lebedny and his accomplices, he tapped into his com officer. “Hansu, play it.” Immediately the message from the from the Svalbard began to play over the com system. Once it was finished and he was sure the other members of the crew were clear of the pod room in the sub-basement, he began the depressurization sequence. “That was the last message from the Svalbard before Abriad Fallon destroyed her and her crew.” He spoke into the open com. “You know where the escape pods are if you have no stomach for what’s about to happen.” He didn’t say anything else. He didn’t have to. Fallon had underestimated the crew’s loyalty and the discontent at having a third of their compliment replaced with Fallon’s ass-kissers who were far less competent then the members they had replaced and nothing more than glorified snitches. Add to that, like Harker, they were tired of living with the threat of a shackle hanging over their heads and the heads of their families.

Ivan moved to flank Harker, and Ledbedny assessed the situation with an experienced eye. “Jacobs and Schmidt are dead, Harker,” he said, keeping his voice even, trying to make the threat seem less than it was. “You should have known better than to send them against me. They were just freighter security. Their training wasn’t up to the task. It’s a pity really. They were good men. They didn’t have to die. There deaths are on your head. The rest of you,” he raised his voice to be heard above the Svalbard’s last transmission now being played on a loop. “The choice is yours to make. But be warned, it won’t go easy for you if you choose wrongly. The Authority doesn’t look kindly on industrial espionage and hijacking of an orca class ship. The best you can hope for is a shackle for you and your families and a life sentence in the mines.”

He turned his attention back to Harker. “Captain, I’m going to ask you one more time to release my people.”

“I can’t release your people, Ledbedny. They’re in cryo-stasis, and nice and ready for a long trip.” Just then the alarm began to sound for the decompression of the chamber and Ledbedny went wild. He dove for the door and hit the lock mechanism with his fist just before it would secure the sequence, the door slid open with the computer’s voice mindlessly repeating a warning of imminent decompression. His two cohorts each grabbed Harker by a shoulder and Ivan grabbed for Lebedny. His momentum forced them both through the door, which slid shut automatically behind them and the locking sequence commenced again. But when Harker tried to pull away from Lebedny’s men, they held him so that he couldn’t key in the abort. He could only struggle and watch helplessly as Ivan and Lebedny battled inside the decompressing cryo-chamber, all the while the final message from the Svalbard played mindlessly over the intercom. “When that chamber hatch blows, Lebedny goes right out the door with no cryo-tube, now let go of me.” The fact that they didn’t budge made him wonder if they were more afraid of Lebedny than they were of him.

“Don’t worry, boys,” came Flissy’s rough contralto voice from behind. “I’ve still got space for you.”

In unison the two men gave a soft grunt of surprise and stumbled backward into the waiting arms of Flissy and her assist, Keller, and Harker sprung forward to key in the code that would reverse the decompression sequence. But it was too late. All he could do, all any of them could do was watch in horror as the hatch opened, the clamps on the occupied cryo-tubes released and the tubes, along with Lebedny and Ivan, still locked in heated battle were sucked outward into the void.


There were no tears shed. No one had time for tears. Ivan’s loss was a heavy blow for the Dubrovnik crew. He’d signed on as an ensign when Harker became captain. They had worked well together, and he would be missed. Only Harker knew that he his family had pooled their last resources to send him away so that he would escape the shackle of his family’s debt. They had risked further debt to buy him a new identity and a new life. Harker had kept his secret, and he had been loyal to the end. Ivan’s death was a sacrifice that Harker knew he saw as his duty, and yet that made the loss no less bitter. Ivan and Flissy were two of the few people onboard that Harker had come to consider friends and equals – them and Diana McAllister, for whom he’d had to keep his respect and admiration hidden.

The crew was all gathered on the observation deck, at his request. Flissy flanked him and so did Science Officer Hal Rehnquist. Harker looked out over the faces he had become familiar with over the years. Few ever left the service of the Dubrovnik on purpose. It was a good ship and a good place to serve. He looked out on determined faces, squared tense shoulders and all eyes were on him.

“We will mourn the los of our comrade Jelik Ivan, make no mistake, that time will come, and we will drink to his memory and to the example he represented aboard this good ship. We will mourn the loss of the Svalbard, her fine crew and captain and the good work they did. We will mourn so many losses, more than we can count. I promise you that time will come.

“Today, though, we have a chance to make a difference. But know this, all of you who stand before me, the price will be a high one. We’ve hijacked a conglomerate orca class flagship. We’ve tossed a third of the crew overboard, and we’ve disobeyed every direct order and every rule we’ve lived by all these years together.” He stepped forward to the com and played the last message of the Svalbard once more. And when it was done, when the silence was as complete as death, he spoke again. “If any of you wish to leave, now is your chance. After this there’ll be no turning back. If you choose to go, you’ll be set aboard an escape pod with coordinates that will take you far from the action, but land you safe in an Authority stronghold, where you need tell nothing but the truth, and no harm will come to you. No one here will hold it against you.”

When no one budged, he heaved a sigh and offered a tight, but earnest smile. “Your loyalty moves me deeply, that you stand by me knowing that I may very well be leading you to your deaths or worse. But this is where we draw the line. This is where we take our stand. Pandora Base can’t stand against the Apocalypse. It is unarmed, and until now, undetected. The shields will only hold for a short time. There are five hundred souls on Plague 1, and the research that has resulted in a cure for the SNT virus in any stage. There are secrets there that we cannot allow to fall into the Authority’s hands. Most especially we can’t let them fall into Fallon’s hands. There’s space aboard the Dubrovnik for the people and the equipment. Once the base is evacuated and everyone is onboard, with a quick stop on Grania 5, we can take on supplies enough to get us to the Rim. Once we’re there, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, there’ll be no coming back, so I will offer you one last chance to opt out.” Still no one moved. He looked out once again over the faces of his trusted crew and nodded. “Well then, buckle in. We’re already on course for Plague 1 and we’re about to jump to maximum speed. We’re way closer than the Apocalypse is, since the destruction of the Svalbard happened here.” He pointed to a place on the star map. With any luck, we can be there, have the base evacuated, and have jumped a couple of times before the Apocalypse arrives. Good luck. Good luck to all of us and all of those at Pandora Base.”


Piloting Fury Part 25: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Birthday to me!  Tomorrow is my birthday, so to celebrate, this week’s version of Fury is actually a double read. While you enjoy more time with Mac, Manning and Fury, I’ll be toasting you all with the bubbly. Since we’re in lockdown once again here in England, I’ll be celebrating at home, more than likely binge watching the fantastic 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. If you’ve not seen it, I can’t recommend it enough. I try to watch it every year if I can.

Mac and Manning, however, are not Elizabeth and Darcy, and there’s nothing very well mannered in their behaviour at all. As we enter the 25nd week of Fury, I hope you’re enjoying the rollicking read. If so, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, while the con was successful, the getaway doesn’t quite go as planned.



“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.



Piloting Fury Part 25: Aftermath


“Tell you what,” he said in a slurred voice that was dripping seduction and generously laced with greed, “how about I give you a chance to win it all back and more.” He looked me up and down, and I crossed my legs and leaned forward.

“What did you have in mind?”

“If you win, you take back your shares. If I win, you give me the coordinates for the triaxium.” When I started to protest, he placed a brandy-scented finger against my lips. “Oh don’t worry, sweetie pie, if you lose I’ll see that you have enough credits transferred into your account that you won’t have to resort to poker for a little while at least.” He pulled my hand to his lips and kissed the back of it to the tune of Manning’s rapid-fired, multi-lingual cursing in my ear. My lips twitched, but I’m no amateur. I made it look like I was about to cry.

“You would do that for me?”

“Of course I would, darlin’. I wouldn’t leave you destitute, now would I? But,” he grabbed up my hand again and began to stroke the backs of my fingers as though he were stroking something farther south, “I would expect a little … reward, if you know what I mean.”

I offered my best pout. “And what about me? What’s my reward? How do I know you can trust me, I mean you just stiffed your partner for a whole shipment of New Hibernian. I ran my teeth over my pouty lip and shook my head. “No, I think I’d better go face the music. I lost. I need to quit while I still at least have a job.”

“I’ll throw in the whiskey.” And there it was, what I’d been waiting for.

“A whole load?” I settled back into my chair, and his gaze followed my tits as I did.

“Look, I’ll be honest with you. I’ve got room in my freighter for a full load of triax from a stingray class, but not with the whiskey, which I haven’t sold on just yet. I was holding out to trade with some New Sumerians just in from the Far Outer. They’ll pay a fortune for it.

I leaned forward my biggest smile leading the way, then I looked around to make sure no one was listening. “How’d you like a new partner?”

“What did you have in mind,” he said stroking my arm and all but drooling in my cleavage.

“Well,” I wriggled in my seat. “My crew are losers. I can’t count the number of times they’ve cheated me out of my fair share, and they never listen to me. I could have made us a fortune in the Outer Rim several times over if they’d only just taken my advice, followed up on my research, but no. I’m just the pilot. I’m not the captain, who is an idiot, by the way,” I said with a wave of my hand.

“Watch it,” Manning chuckled into my implant.

“It’ll take them a week, maybe more to get the equipment together, and then there are the permits. They’re actually going to get permits, can you believe it?” His eyes were getting bigger and brighter by the moment. “Our cargo bay is empty, plenty of room for a load of whiskey, and I’m the pilot, I can drop the shields and we can mol-tran the whiskey right on over. You did say you had mol-tran, didn’t you?” I didn’t wait for his reply. “Then you’ll have room for all that triax. If we leave now, we can mol-tran the triax, sell it on, and be back in time for Carnival in the Riviera. We can just let my soft-headed crew have the whiskey, that’s nothing, that’s chump change compared to the triax. What do you say?” I reached into my handbag and pulled out a couple of decent sized nuggets of ore that Manning had onboard the Fury. “I couldn’t resist taking these little babies just for luck, you know?” I ran my palm over his chest and all but purred. “I’d certainly say my luck has just changed.”

“Both our luck, partner,” he said squeezing my hand. By this time I’d learned to totally ignore Manning’s ongoing derogatory monologue. “All I need are the coordinates, Layla,” Blake said. I’d told him my name was Layla Bridges. It was actually the name of a series of obscure bridges my father had taken me to visit in a remote region of the Plitak System. They were ancient, built of stone spanning countless, rivers and waterfalls. It was the last trip I’d made with my father before he was bonded to the Merlin.

“Here we go, I’ve just lowered the shields so you can mol-tran the whiskey. Oh heavens, I’m so excited.” I gave him Fury’s coordinates.

“I’m ‘tranning them over now,” he said.

“Hold it.” I brushed my cleavage against his arm and settled close enough to see his device while he set up the ‘tran lock. “What’s that?”

He zoomed in. “Polyphemian musk oil. Huge shipment,” he said. “I traded a Digan for it. Practically stole it. Poor bastard didn’t know what he had, since Digan’s have no sense of smell, they’re not susceptible.”

But everyone else was very susceptible, and I knew it. Polyphemian musk oil was one of the most expensive, most coveted aphrodisiacs in the galaxy. “Well, you’d better do something with it because you’ll need all that space for the triax, trust me you will, and even then I’m not sure you can get it all on board.”

The greedy bastard expanded the lock and this time Manning’s curses sounded more like a prayer of surprised thanksgiving. Blake and I watched as both the whiskey and the musk oil disappeared from his cargo bay. I passed the coordinates for the non-existent triaxium to his device just as Fury confirmed that our cargo hold was indeed very full.

“Partners!” I gave a drunken little squeal and launched myself at Blake in a busty hug that he returned with gusto. Then I toddled unsteadily off to the ladies room to freshen up, I told him. I knew exactly what would happen next.

I had a much-needed pee after drinking enough ginger beer to float a battle cruiser. Then I took my time freshening up and toying with my hair until Manning spoke into my implant.

“You, my darling, have just been stood up. Blake will be halfway across the Ingrid Expanse before you have your nose powdered.”

If there’s one thing a Polyphemian craved more than sex, it was the opportunity to scam a deal. The deal I just pulled off made me wonder if there might be a tad bit of Polyphemian floating around in my own genetic soup somewhere.

“The musk oil alone is worth three times what the whiskey is,” Manning whispered in my ear. “Bloody hell, you were born to this business, woman! Tonight we celebrate.”

I pumped my fist in the air with a victory salute, and gave the holo-mirror a shit-eating grin while giving myself one last inspection before returning to Manning. My mind was completely focused on the celebration aboard the Fury that might possibly involve more of Manning’s lips when I walked out the door and ran smack dab into Gerando Fallon.

He was drunk, like he always was. The eldest son and a blight on the family name, his father always said. But as far as I was concerned the whole goddamned family was a blight on the galaxy. Gerando was the one who had dragged me into the Faribaldi among other unpleasant things. Before panic could override surprise, survival instincts that had kept me alive all these years, kicked in. With my head down, I mumbled an apology in High Digan and spoke in the mincing little girl voice Digan women used when they interacted in public. But he grabbed me anyway.

“Hey sweet tits,” he pulled me up close into the stomach knotting scent of whiskey, sweat and testosterone. I tried to breathe through my mouth. I knew his scent way too well not to know that before the night was over some woman would end up in a bad way, and it sure as fuck wasn’t going to be me, not this time. He gave my butt a groping squeeze, and I pushed back. “You go running into a man dressed like that and you’re liable to get you pert little ass fucked.” He slapped my butt, and turned away. I thought he’d let me by, I thought he was heading for the pisser.

The wave of nausea passed into an instant of relief so overpowering that I could do nothing but gasp. He didn’t recognize me. The fucker didn’t recognize me. I kept my head low and had damn near made my escape, when, he grabbed my arm in a bruising grip and jerked me back with an evil growl.

“Seriously! Did you think I wouldn’t recognize you, McAllister? Did you really think you were going to get away with it?” He gripped my chin in his hand in a vicious squeeze and lifted my head so I had no choice but to meet his gaze. “Just look at you, all healthy and smooth-skinned, half naked and begging for it. It’d be ashamed for me not to take advantage before the old man gives you a nice hefty dose of the plague.” He jerked me in until we were nose to nose, and the alcohol of his breath nearly made me gag.

“How the hell did a skanky little indentured come up with the money to get her shackle neutralized, that’s what I wanna know. Though I imagine that bleeding heart Harker had a hand in it. Don’t tell me this Manning bastard decided to free you to keep his cock warm. He could have saved himself a whole lot of credits by just buying himself a Hanorian whore. I hear lots of lonely smugglers keep one or two onboard for scratching the itch. Still, neutralizing your shackle cost him less than its costing my old man to hunt you down, so there must be something about your worthless ass that makes men putty in your hands. How ‘bout you show me just exactly what it is.” He gave me a teeth-rattling shake and pulled me up on my toes until I was pressed against his sweaty stink.

I’m not sure if it was rage or terror that won out, but adrenaline shot through me like a rush of Digan fire dust. I stomped down hard against the inside of his shin. My balance was off just enough for it to be only a glancing blow, but it was enough for me to break and run, with him cursing loudly right on my tail. I barely made it to the back door before he was on me, pulling me back by the hair. “You little bitch, the old man should have infected you properly when he had the chance.” He reeled me in close and spoke next to my ear. “The old man’s birthday’s coming up. I haven’t got him a gift yet. You’ll do nicely, and I’m sure he won’t mind if I test drive you first.”

“Get off her, Fallon. He will mind and you know it, now get off her.”

I squirmed in his arms to see Leo Rab, from the Dubrovnik, striding toward Fallon like he was being chased by Valkyries.

Before I could speak, Fallon grabbed me around the throat and hauled me up on my toes with me gasping and choking for breath.

“Fuck you, Rab. The ole man isn’t here, and this whore is.” As he reached for his fly, I brought the crown of my head up hard under his chin, jarring his whole head back. He cursed profusely and stumbled back right into Rab, just as Manning shoved his way around the two, slid his arms around me and pulled me close.

“Get us out,” Manning spoke softly and as calmly as if he were just telling me the latest gossip. “Hold tight.” And before I could utter more than a shocked little yelp, Fallon’s surprised face bloomed bright then went thin and faded, then for a split second the world blinked out of existence.

“She got away. She fucking got away! He’s gonna kill me.” The kid kicked over a table, upsetting the poker game going on and sending the punters scrambling before he started on them, then he picked up one of the cheap-assed chairs and threw it through the cheap-assed wall. “I’m gonna rip that rat bastard, Manning’s, throat out! I’m gonna fry his brains out with a mol-gun and leave him to drool and shit himself.”

“All right! All right, goddamnit!” Rab gasped, all but dragging the boy out into the alley to cool down before he wrecked anything else in the Corsair in a blind rage. Fucking good thing his old man was loaded. Hadn’t taken him long to do some serious damage. Shit, the kid was scary in his rage. “He had her in a mol-tran lock, Junior. There was nothing we could do. Bloody hell, I’ve never seen anything that accurate.”

“Come on.” The kid jerked away. “Let’s go find Blake and beat the truth out of him. He’ll know where they’re at. Surely he’ll know.”

Rab grabbed him and swung him around. “How the hell will he know where they’re at? Weren’t you paying attention? Think, ya little twit. Blake doesn’t fucking know McAllister or he sure as hell wouldn’t have been playing cards with her. He doesn’t know anything about why we want Manning and the Fury. Hell he thinks Manning is shackled and on his way to hard labor in the triax mines. Whatever the hell McAllister told him, you can bet it wasn’t the truth. We took a gamble that she would even be here.”

Junior let fly a string of curses that would have curled Rab’s hair – if he had any. Before Rab could respond, the kid drove his fist into the wall with so much force that knuckles cracked, and the smell of blood added to the stink of piss and puke in the alley. His shoulders slumped and he looked down at his mangled hand like it was a total surprise to him. He didn’t resemble his father much at all just then, Rab thought.

“He’s going to kill me.” He said softly, and he began to shiver like they were on Arctica Major instead of balmy Outer Kingston. “He’s going to kill me.”

“Hey! Hey, calm down. Let’s get that hand looked at.” Jesus, he couldn’t believe he was being buddy-buddy with the little shit, but his old man had really done a number on him. “You’re the bearer of the family jewels, remember. He ain’t gonna kill you.” Frankly it was what might happen that didn’t involve death that worried Rab a whole lot more, though he kept his worries to himself. He wouldn’t put anything past Fallon senior. Having the pleasure of seeing the interaction between the two just during his time onboard the Ares, he had to say, he understood exactly why the kid was such a fucked up mess.

Piloting Fury: Part 19 Brand New KDG Read

I hope those of you who celebrate it had a safe and happy Thanksgiving. For those of you who are taking advantage of Black Friday, please stay safe. But today’s not just Black Friday for shoppers, it’s Fury Friday for readers. It’s time for another escape to deep space for a rollicking read.  In a NaNoWriMo  update, with ten days to go, I just passed the 78K mark. My characters are taking me on a wild and wonderful ride leading to some late night and early morning unexpected writing adventures. The new Medusa Consortium novel is full of surprises form the readers, and certainly for me as I write it. What fun!

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 19th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, Today Mac and Fury ride the storm out while Stanislovski treats Manning for some mysterious illness. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!



“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.


Piloting Fury Part 19: Riding the Storm Out

As it turned out, the ride was way rougher than I’d anticipated. We’d had even less warning than the Pandora Base computer had predicted. When it became clear I wouldn’t be able to fly straight out, nor was I able to jump, I had no choice but to ride out the storm, seeking with Fury’s telemetry, the levels where the winds were less fierce, and that wasn’t saying much. For the next four hours, I had little time to think about what was going on in Manning’s quarters. There were no updates from Stanislovski on his condition. I figured they were as busy trying to keep from being battered to death while Fury bucked and twisted, as I was. It took all my focus, and then some, just to keep the winds from tearing us apart. “I got you,” I spoke under my breath. “Hang on Fury, work with me, just work with me. Don’t worry. I got you.”

“Diana Mac, I am not programed to worry,” came the calm response from the ship’s computer.

“Wish I could say the same. Any suggestions?”

“Hang on, Diana Mac. I got you.” Came the response, and I gave what couldn’t have been less than a maniacal laugh.

“But you were programed with a sense of humor, I see.”

“Not a very fucking good one, as Richard Manning often reminds me.”

“Well, what the hell does Manning know anyway,” I managed before we hit an eddie that all but spun us a three-sixty, and I cursed and fought the wave feeling like Fury really was working with me, anticipating my efforts, like a lover, I thought. Not that I’d ever had one – a lover that is. Not that I’d ever had a ship of my own either. But then again, Fury wasn’t really mine.

“Diana Mac, sensors indicate a calmer airstream three thousand meters lower.”

“I’m on it! Thanks Pal,” I said.

There was a strange sound from the com that sounded almost like a chuckle. I certainly hoped it wasn’t a malfunction because I sure as hell had no time to fix the computer. “You all right?” I ask.

“Five by five … Pal.”

I smiled, gritted my teeth and fought to bring us down to the altitude Fury recommended, which, while it wasn’t spinning us about like a mad centrifuge, was bone jarring and teeth rattling at best.

“Can you set broken bones?” I managed as the ship juddered and bounced.

“My auto surgery is programmed for general orthopedic damage to humanoids. Are you broken, Diana Mac?”

“No. I’m fine,” I managed correcting hard left. Then I chuckled, “My sense of humor’s not very fucking good either.”

For the next hour, I didn’t speak, and neither did Fury, though I felt the ship working with me as clearly as I felt the movement of my own hands across the consol. It was as though the ship were anticipating my every move. I’d had moments like that onboard the Dubrovnik, moments of connection, moments when I was so in tune with the ship that it felt as though my very skin had dissolved and whatever boundary separated ship from pilot temporarily disappeared. But it was only ever momentary, and never really very personal. Lots of pilots felt that connection on those occasions when the situation demanded the most from the pilot and the ship. But the components that were always working in the equation of me piloting the Dubrovnik, the failsafe barriers and safety protocols separating ship from pilot didn’t exist with the Fury. Somehow I had more control, and that seemed to, in some strange way, give the ship more control as well. With Fury, I realized, we were always skin-to-skin.

“I recommend supplement AR 1.” Fury’s computer interrupted my ruminations.

“For what? What’s supplement AR1?” I asked, taking us up again to a higher level that was no less turbulent, but brought us closer to our goal of escaping the upper atmosphere.

“It will help you feel less tired, more energetic. It is Richard Manning’s own formula.”

“What does the AR stand for, I asked?”

“Adrenalin Rush.”

I laughed and risked taking the ship up a little higher still. “Oh that sounds delightful. But maybe later. I think we’re almost free.”

“Sensors indicate that we are, indeed almost free of the planet’s atmosphere.”

“What do you think? Shall we risk an attempt to break the bitch?”

“The odds are fifty-fifty, Diana Mac. Worth the gamble.”

I laughed and nosed us up a little more. “Has Manning been playing poker with you, because he cheated, you know?”

“Of course he cheated.” Came the reply. “I did warn him that he would lose, if he attempted such an illogical wager against you.”

“Oh?” The ship began to judder hard, and I gritted my teeth, forced the nose up another few meters and leveled off again. “So he ignored you?”

“He did not ignore me, Diana Mac. He took my advice.”

“You told him to cheat?”

For a moment there was silence as the ship bucked and shimmied, and I feared I’d have to bring us back down again. “Goddamn it! I’m sick of this shit, and I’m starving, Fury let’s get the fuck out of this mess.”

“Don’t worry, Diana Mac. I got you,” came the reply.

We took a bloody battering, but together we kept our nose up and didn’t retreat, until finally, after what felt like an eternity, we pulled free of the planet’s exosphere with a sudden burst of acceleration that had my stomach in my throat and my brain about to pop out my eyeballs. I think I might have let out some very undignified war whoop, and then we were free. The Fury settled like a seabird on calm water, and I ran a hand, suddenly none too steady, across my sweaty forehead.

“We did it,” I managed once I was sure all my innards were back in their proper place.

“Fucking A,” came the response that had me laughing out loud.

“You’ve spent too much time around Manning,” I said.

I had read that Plague One was noted for it’s horrendous planet-wide storms, and from the beginning the plague colonies had been built below ground. No one could have survived on the surface in a full blown planet-wide, and what made the storms even worse was that the only safe distance was beyond high orbit.

Once we were out of harm’s way, too exhausted to move, I just sat and looked back at the planet, ghost white against the black of deep space, it’s own sun little more than a distant yellow speck. The entire atmosphere was a mesmerizing jumble of massive hurricane swirls. Goose bumps rose along my spine and I laid a hand on the console. “We did good,” I spoke softly to Fury. “We’re still alive. We did real good.”

“Real good, indeed,” came the response.

“So,” I said gazing down at Plague One still in the throes of the storm. “You advised Manning to cheat me at poker?”

“I did. Yes.”

“Mind telling me why?”

There was a long pause, and I half expected the ship’s computer to ask me to rephrase the question. But at last Fury answered. “I needed a decent pilot.”

I smiled in spite of myself. “Well you got the best now, but that’s a helluva way to get you one.”


I let my mind swirled with the clouds, as I slumped deeper into the pilot’s chair nearly falling asleep before my stomach growled. Then I undid my restraints and stumbled to the galley. I stopped at Manning’s door and lifted a hand to knock, but then thought better of it.

By the time I reached the galley and replicated a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of coffee, I was wondering if Manning was even still alive. Surely Stanislovski would have commed me if his situation had worsened. Not that I could have done anything. What if they were both dead? I mean the storm was seriously rough going. If they hadn’t been able to strap in in time, anything might have happened. I took a bite of my sandwich and scalded my mouth on the coffee.

“Fury, can you tell me Manning’s condition,” I asked. Then I shot a glance over my shoulder just in case the man was watching, as he’d been known to do.

“Richard Manning is resting comfortably,” Fury’s computer replied.

“And Ina Stanislovski?”

“Ina Stanislovski is resting comfortably. Their vital signs are normal, and Richard Manning is fully recovered from his incident.”

Relief left me feeling like my bones had turned soft. I glanced over my shoulder again. “Fury, can you tell me what Manning’s condition is?”

“I cannot,” came the response.

“Cannot or will not?”

“You must ask Richard Manning.”

“Do you knowwhat Richard Manning suffers from?”

“Of course I do. He is my captain.”

“But you’re not authorized to tell me.”

“I am not.”

“Bloody bastard.” I didn’t bother to speak quietly. I didn’t care if he heard me. “I’m his goddamn pilot. Doesn’t he think I have a right to know if he suffers from some debilitating disease that leaves me alone and in charge at the absolute worst possible time?” Then I tried another approach. “Has he had this condition long?”

“All of his life.”

Then it hit me like an orca class freighter. “Is that why he made the bet with me? Is he no longer able to captain you alone?”

“His condition is stable, and he is quite capable of performing his duties to me. You were brought onboard for other reasons.”

“What other reasons?”

“Because I needed a pilot,” came the reply.

“You’re not very fucking good at lying either, Fury.” I shoved half my sandwich into my mouth, and chewed angrily. “Stupid me. I’m just the fucking indentured. You’re probably not authorized to tell me anything. I’m just an expendable tool.”

“We are all expendable tools, Diana Mac. I do not understand your anger.”

“Never mind. It doesn’t matter. It’s not important.” Since there was nothing I could do about being kept in the dark where Manning’s condition was concerned, I pulled up the Pilot’s log and entered as much detail about the storm as I could remember, checking back over the computer records of the past four hours. The only sound in the galley was the soft hum of the life support systems.

Piloting Fury: Part 18 Brand New KDG Read

It’s Friday and time for more Fury, and another escape to deep space for a little RR – that’s reading relief for those of us who’d rather have our noses in a good book.  In a NaNoWriMo  update, with ten days to go, I just reached the 50K mark, which is the basic goal of NaNoWriMo. But I’m a long way from finishing the novel. As I have said before, for me, writing a new novel is as much of a sanity saving escape as a good read. And yes, my characters are still keeping me up late and get me up early for an extra hour or two of writing.  The new Medusa Consortium novel is coming along nicely, and it’s great to be back with Magda and the gang.

I hope you’re enjoying Piloting Fury as we enter the 17th week. If you are, please spread the word and pass the link to a friend. I love to share my stories with as many people as possible. I’m offering a new episode of Fury every Friday. Today, as a storm descends on Plague,  Mac finds herself having to pilot Fury to safer with no help from Manning. Happy reading, and stay safe out there!



“Win the bet and Fury’s yours. Lose the bet and your ass is mine.” It seemed like a no-brainer — Rick Manning’s slightly inebriated offer. If he’d been sober, he’d have remembered indentured pilot, Diana “Mac” McAlister never lost a bet. All her life she’s dreamed of buying back her freedom and owning her own starship, and when Fury’s ne’er-do-well, irritating as hell captain all but hands Fury to her on a silver platter she figures she can’t lose. She figured wrong. That’s how the best pilot in the galaxy finds herself the indentured 1st mate of a crew that, thanks to her, has doubled in size. Too late, she finds out Fury is way more than a cargo ship. Fury is a ship with a history – a dangerous history, and one that Mac’s been a part of for a lot longer than she thinks. And Rick Manning is not above cheating at poker to get her right at the center of it all, exactly where he needs her to be.


Piloting Fury: Part 18 A Small Dose of Truth

“How can this be?” I asked, as a waitress in a vintage uniform served me a burger and fries and what she called a milk shake, informing me that everything I was about to ingest was either grown or synthesized on Pandora Base. No real meat, I was told, and since I had no idea what a burger and fries was supposed to taste like, I didn’t know the difference.”

“This is Professor Keen’s creation,” Manning said, looking from him to me and back, as though hoping that would placate me.

“Actually, we all worked together to create Pandora Base. It was just my design,” the man replied sipping at a cup of coffee.

“Like the SNTs?” I said.

He looked down into his cup and inhaled a deep breath. “Like the SNTs, yes.”

“And how many died in the creating of this little project?” The minute I asked it, I knew it was a stupid question.

“Thousands. I can give you exact numbers if you’d like. While we built Pandora Base, we were still working on the cure, and even when we got it right, it was difficult to synthesize without ingredients we had to have smuggled in.” He scrubbed his hand over his face as if by doing so he could erase the memory. “Everything had to be smuggled in back then. Some died just because we couldn’t get what we needed in time to save them. Those were the hardest deaths to bear. It’s only been the last ten standard years that we’ve been totally self-sufficient.”

“And the ships, the SNTs? How many millions died because of them, and you sent them out there, and you bonded my father.”

“There was nothing wrong with the ships. They were perfect!” He leaned so far over the table, I thought he would climb on top of it. The raw emotion in his voice crackled through the air like static. “Their bondings were perfect. Every contingency planned for, well-thought out, tested and retested. Every humanoid perfectly matched to his ship. It was the virus, it was the damn virus.” He dropped back into the booth and slapped the table so hard that the cutlery rattled.

“The SNTs would have brought the galaxy to the brink of peace. Another generation of ships would have revolutionized space travel with their speed only limited by the speed of human thought. That would have meant a more mobile workforce, and it would have opened up other uses for bonded technology that would have, within less than a generation, completely done away with the need for indentureds. Think about it, indentureds are the work force that keeps the conglomerates and the oligarchs in power. Fortunes have been amassed and empires built on the backs of indentured. What may have started out as a way to pay off debt has become an economic necessity.”

I folded my arms across my chest. “You’re not saying anything every citizen and every indentured doesn’t already know, Keen.”

Manning waved a hand to shush me, and Keen continued.

“At the time, there was already a motion before the Authority to begin the emancipation of indentured. Then the Perigrine incident happened, and everyone blamed the SNT ships, everyone said they weren’t stable. Within a few months several more went rogue. Diana,” he held my gaze with pleading eyes, “you and everyone on Pandora Base knows that the SNT virus was engineered to keep indentureds in line. There’s no way it would have infected a sentient ship. At least not as it was. It was engineered, never was it naturally occurring.” He looked down at my forearm. “It was engineered specifically for the shackle. But with the SNTs’ biological matrix, it could have just as easily been reengineered to infect a sentient ship. With just a little tweaking, the makeup of the virus that affects the brain in advanced stages of the infection could be magnified and manipulated so that it was the component of the virus that was injected into the sentient ships. That’s exactly what happened with the Peregrine and with the other ships. Your father discovered this — he and the Merlin. The Merlin had already been infected, but the bond was strong enough between the ship and your father that he was able to diagnose the problem and get the word to me. I made the mistake of taking the information your father gave me to someone in the Authority I thought I could trust. The next thing I knew, I was on a plague ship being sent here, deliberately infected, and your father and the Merlin had sacrificed themselves for nothing.” His voice had become a tight, vicious whisper and the fever in his eyes looked more like an inferno.

My pulse beat in my ears like a flock of pigeons taking flight, and the tightness in my throat made speaking impossible.

At last Keen continued. “With the mass destruction caused by the infected ships, naturally public opinion turned completely against the SNT project, just like the Authority wanted. Up until that time the virus was known only by name V1. Most people just referred to it as ‘the virus.” But after the SNT disaster, it became known as the SNT virus. Rumor even spread that the ships had engineered it on their own for the purpose of destruction, never mind that they didn’t used it and never mind that it destroyed them. By that time the evidence was irrelevant. Emotions had been whipped into a frenzy, and what blame I didn’t get, your father got. That’s the truth of it, Diana. I swear to you. ”

I sat for a moment, feeling the world spinning out of control around me. It wasn’t that I ever had any control, but if what Keen said was true, then I felt more helpless, more trapped than ever.

Keen took a deep shaky breath and spoke into the silence. “I … I was sent to Plague One to die a long and painful death, and your father was saddled with the crime he didn’t commit, and the debt of the loss of the Merlin, which was all kindly passed on to you.” That part of the story I knew and lived with every day. I had no doubt Fallon had known this all along – even been a part of the downfall of the SNTs most likely. And for him, I was just a reminder of a job well done.

The clatter of Manning’s coffee cup hitting the floor brought us rudely back to the present. “I’m sorry. Clumsy of me,” he said, reaching for a handful of napkins from the vintage dispenser and scooting from the booth, where he promptly fell to his knees with a pained gasp.

“Manning, what is it? What’s wrong?” I clamored out after him, ignoring the shard of the broken mug slicing through my jumpsuit and into my knee, as I did so. “What’s wrong? Manning talk to me, damn it.”

“I need to get back to Fury, back to my quarters, then I’ll be just fine. Don’t worry.” The words were barely out of his mouth before he began trembling so hard I feared his bones would break. He forced a laugh between gritted teeth. “Talk about lousy timing. Mac, you’re knee’s bleeding. Best take care of it.” He offered me a napkin, but dropped it with a sharp groan as he doubled over, like someone had punched him in the gut.

“Forget my goddamned knee, it’s just a cut. Tell me what’s wrong?” In my peripheral vision, Keen was now standing, braced against the table with his hand extended to Manning. Between the two of us, we got him back into the booth just as the uni-com system crackled and a computerized female voice spoke.

Warning, all personnel return immediately to Pandora Base. P-Blizzard Epsilon will be planet wide in T-minus 40 minutes. Repeat all personnel return immediately to Pandora Base. P-Blizzard Epsilon will be planet wide in T-minus 40 minutes.

A siren began to wail outside in the biosphere’s main street.

“It wasn’t predicted to hit that fast,” Keen said, fumbling for his personal device in his pocket. “That means it’ll be a deep atmosphere storm.”

Manning grabbed my arm. “Get me back to my quarters, and get the Fury a safe distance from the planet.”

“You’re not fit to go anywhere,” I said, settling his parka around him. “I’m sure Dr. Keen can –”

“Do it, Mac. That’s an order.”

“Listen to him,” Keen said, helping him into the parka, and motioning me to put on mine. “He knows what he needs, and it’ll take you at least thirty minutes to get the Fury prepped and out of orbit.”

Manning fisted my parka in a wave of pain and then hissed between gritted teeth, “Mac, if you don’t get Fury out of high orbit, there’ll be no ship left to move.” Then Manning was leaning on both of us as we half dragged half carried him into the street, which was a hive of organized chaos as everyone prepared for the storm.

“We can mol-tran you two from Main Street,” Keen said. “In this weather, it’s not likely we could even get containment outside the airlock. It’s unusual for a P-level storm to breach so quickly, but it happens.”

Just outside the door of the diner, Ina Stanislovski joined us already dressed in her parka and storm gear. “I’m coming with,” she said falling into step.

“Ina can help,” Keen explained. “You can send her back as soon as the storm breaks.”

She took Keen’s place supporting Manning on the other side and Keen pulled out his device. Then he stopped and turned to me.

“I know you have a million questions, Diana, questions I’ll happily answer. Com me. I’m in Fury’s database under Kandenski. It was my mother’s family name.” And then he stepped back and spoke into his device. “Three for Mol-tran to Fury.”

The next thing I knew we were standing in the ship’s corridor in front of Manning’s quarters, with me feeling like I’d left half my innards on Pandora Base.

Stanislovski gave her belly a quick fisted rub, clearly feeling the same. “Always a rougher mol-tran from inside the base,” she said offering a reassuring smile.

“Get Fury out of orbit,” Manning managed, leaning heavily on Stanislovski. “I’m
counting on you, Mac.”

“I’ll see to Rick,” the woman said, and the next thing I knew the door to his cabin opened just wide enough to admit the two of them, then slammed shut and locked behind them leaving me standing in the corridor next to the bridge.

I felt the click of the locking mechanism like a slap, but I had more important things to dwell on than what I swear was absolutely not jealousy. I turned away, strapped myself into the pilot’s chair just as the whole ship lurched wildly. “Buckle in,” I announced over the com, already checking telemetry and trajectory “We’re in for a rough ride.”